The internet was burning up last week with the announcement of billionaire and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos’ divorce from his wife MacKenzie Bezos.
As someone who has experienced divorce first hand and written about it extensively, I couldn’t help wondering whether divorce is different for people who are super rich.
Divorce: A Two-Part Process
Divorce is complicated.
Typically, most people think of divorce in legal terms, or as statues of law. Assets are divided, and if children (and yes animals) are involved, custody and visitation rights are decided. I refer to this as the legal divorce.
In addition to the legal divorce, there is the emotional divorce. This encompasses the countless, often contradictory, emotions that one experiences as they transition from a “we” to an “I.” I am referring to feelings of love, hate, relief, fear, remorse and regret, to name a few.
The Legal Divorce and the Wealthy
Does wealth make the legal divorce look different?
Of course it does.
For high-net-worth people like the Bezos couple, there is a lot more at stake when severing the financial ties. High-net-worth cases have much more complex assets to value and distribute. Analyzing the finances might well involve many financial experts valuing assets that have a high degree of subjectivity (appraising a business).
Child support for high-income families can be difficult to appraise as the amount is often determined by the “needs” of the child (which both parents may see very differently.) This is in contrast to middle-income families where a formula is used to calculate child support payments.
Regardless of a couples’ worth, money is one of the leading causes of stress in a marriage, and divorce, in general, leads to wealth reduction. Dividing the marital assets can feel unfair to all parties.
The Emotional Divorce and the Wealthy
Does wealth make the emotional divorce look different?
Not at all.
It does not matter whether you are rich or not so rich, the dumper, the dumpee, or you have gone through a “long period of loving exploration…and remain friends,” as Jeff Bezos and his soon-to-be ex-wife are claiming. Divorce challenges your self esteem, your personal worth and your identity.
I seriously doubt that Mackenzie Bezos’ wealth lessened the trauma of seeing her husband’s “sleazy text messages” and “cache of lewd selfies” to his girlfriend that were released by the National Enquirer.
I can’t help questioning if Mr. and Mrs. Bezos really are the “cherished friends” they would have their twitter followers and stockholders believe.
While the financial complexities of the richest man in the world divorcing the soon-to-be richest woman in the world are unimaginable, they will, no doubt, confront the same challenges of raising their four children to be responsible and confident people that all divorcing people living in two households face.
Ask anyone who has been through a divorce, and they will tell you it rocks the foundation of your being and leaves you feeling lonely, flawed, undesirable and helpless.
For almost everyone, even those couples where both parties want the divorce, journeying through the divorce labyrinth can feel like running up a mountain of superglue.
Regardless of one’s net worth, everyone riding the shock waves of divorce experiences feelings of – denial, fear, guilt, self-pity, uncertainty, shock, hatred, failure, rejection, loneliness, everything seems out of control, and yes, legal hassles.
Is there life after divorce? Absolutely. However, it doesn’t come automatically after the divorce papers are signed.
Nor does time heal all wounds.
It is what you do with the time that matters.
In order to make the most of creating a new post-divorce reality that improves upon the past, each person must grieve their loss, take personal responsibility for the marriage failure and learn new ways to create relationships that last.